Ohio College Bets Big on Collaborative Learning Facility

Ohio Northern University has recently opened a 105,000-square-foot, $30 million facility, which is designed to promote collaboration and small class size, reflecting the university’s new approach to the way it teaches engineering.

by Tara Jones, The Lima News / September 23, 2019

(TNS) — Ohio Northern University’s new James Lehr Kennedy Engineering Building reflects the university’s new approach to the way it teaches engineering and hopes to do so for generations to come.

The 105,000-square-foot, $30 million facility is designed to promote collaboration, small class sizes and a more student-friendly environment, according to College of Engineering Dean John-David “JD” Yoder and Assistant Dean of Engineering Thomas Zechman.

“It used to be that engineering education was very much like chemistry, where most of the time, you’re in a classroom and have one lab here and there,” Yoder said. “Now, it’s very much collaborative, interdisciplinary, and for us anyway, very hands-on.”

There are a variety of classroom layouts throughout the building, each equipped with its own technology.

“What’s frustrating is you leave class thinking you understand it, and then you go to do it, and you can’t get anywhere. The goal is to do that all together (students and faculty),” Yoder said. “That difference is the heart of who we are at this college … it works both ways (for the faculty and students). To see them actually get over that hump, that’s why we’re all here.”

In the event that students may need additional help, the faculty offices are readily accessible.

“There are places to study with faculty offices right behind,” Yoder said. “The faculty aren’t hidden away somewhere, they’re here to help students, and this way we’re encouraging them, literally, to study right next to them.”

Lydia Cranmer, a junior computer engineering major from Farmington Hills, Michigan, said what she enjoys most is the student work space to use between her classes, all of which are held in the building this semester.

“When I’m out of class, I like staying in the building to work more,” she explained. “I also like to go visit my professors because they seem more accessible just because of where they are.”

Also integrated within the new building are the three different branches of the engineering program — civil, electrical and mechanical. The department head of each is located within the same corner, with another student work center just outside their doors. In the previous building, each had their own wing.

The building is named after the great-grandson of ONU founder Henry Soloman Lehr. Kennedy, who serves on the ONU Board of Trustees, has gone on to a successful career as an entrepreneur, inventor and artist.

©2019 The Lima News (Lima, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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